The Crumbiness of Toast!

The Smarter Brother

Speaking of being out of touch with the times, consider the politician formerly known as “the smarter brother” until he embarked on a national political campaign and we all realized he isn’t.  In truth, Toast! is in some ways a more pathetic doofus than Dubya, if that’s possible. Just goes to show how nepotism and cronyism can carry one way beyond his level of competence.  #Jeb!

Anyway, Toast! dropped some jaws yesterday when he praised Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his handling of the Flint water crisis.

I’ll pause a moment to let that sink in.

Toast! blamed the crisis on too much government regulation, and then praised Snyder for stepping up to solve the problem. Seriously; he did that. I’m not sure even the rubes will buy that one.

A few days ago the Toast! campaign — no, he actually hasn’t dropped out yet — released his education platform. It includes lots of “school choice” rhetoric and stuff about “expanding charter schools.”

Although charter schools still have a lot of supporters, my sense is that the once soaring idea is quickly becoming a lead balloon. It’s like privatizing Social Security; the more people look at it, the less popular it gets.  And it opens Bush up to additional scrutiny about his absolutely awful charter school failures in Florida. See, for example,

The Big Jeb Bush Charter School Lie

Florida’s big charter school problem (which Jeb Bush manages not to talk about)

Charter School in Miami Fails, but Proves Useful on Jeb Bush’s Résumé

Testing Time: Jeb Bush’s Educational Experiment

That last article proposes that Toast!’s charter school initiative was supposed to be his answer to Dubya’s “no child left behind” program. We might also remember that one of Dubya’s claims in 2000 was the story of the “Texas miracle,” and how his reforms had so improved Texas schools. And then we found out the “miracle” was based on phony numbers. But that didn’t become public knowledge until after Dubya was selected. Toast!’s claims are already thoroughly debunked.

Not that it matters, since nobody is paying any attention to Toast! any more.

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We Need Some New Dogs, ‘Cause the Old Tricks Ain’t Workin’


My insight into politics 2016 is that the old political tricks that used to win elections don’t work any more, and the candidates who realize that are the ones who are winning.

For example: Once upon the time, the candidate with the biggest war chest, the most money, had a huge (or is that “yuuuuuge”?) advantage. More money, more ads, more votes. But that’s no longer true.

In this strange primary season, there is little relationship between money spent on ads and poll numbers for candidates, at least on the Republican side. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, the top two spenders, have spent about 10 times as much on ads as have the two polling leaders in Iowa, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who until recently bought far fewer ads than their rivals.

At this early stage of the race, the negative correlation between spending and support appears to be the result of the ever-evolving media landscape and a few other factors, some unique to 2016: a celebrity front-runner, a crowded field, questionable campaign strategies and voter burnout.

I remember reading a few years ago that television ads were getting less bang for the buck with every passing election cycle. I’d like to believe viewers are better at recognizing bullshit than they used to be, but the truth is we’ve all been so saturated with advertising that, unless it is unusually clever or funny, we tune it out.

(Example of funny/clever ad; not from U.S. television)

I don’t know if that makes me want to buy the dumplings, but at least I would remember the ad.  The problem is, how many funny/clever campaign ads can you think of? And would the infamous “Daisy” ad of 50+ years ago work today, or be laughed at?

On the Dem side, IMO Hillary Clinton’s biggest blunder is that she’s trying to run a 1990s-style campaign against Bernie Sanders, who is way not a 1990s-style candidate. Charles Blow nicely sums this up:

… instead of Clinton finding a way to express that her plans are more tangible than Sanders’s, and her chances in the general election are stronger than his, she and her campaign have made some incredulous inferences about Sanders’s honor.

Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her.

There are a tremendous number of echoes starting to be heard between the way Clinton ran against Obama, and the way she is running against Sanders. …

… If Clinton can’t find a positive, energetic message to project, and soon, she is going to be swept away by Sanders.

Clinton’s off-the-wall swipes at Sanders do connect … with Clinton supporters. I see the same talking points repeated ad nauseam in social media. But people who are not already in the tank for Hillary are not buying them.

Clinton could just as easily make a positive argument for herself, saying that while she supports Sanders’s ideals, her more incremental approach has a better chance of actually working to realize those ideals than his “revolution” approach. That’s a very compelling argument, I think, and one that could win over people on the fence. But instead she’s going for cheap smears, and that does nothing but underscore her own negatives — in particular, the perception that she has a history of selling out progressive principles for her own political expediency.

And yes, her campaign is starting to sound like a re-run of 2008 — when she lost, as I recall.

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The Crackup Continues

Obama Administration

Rick Klein has a pretty good analysis of what ails the GOP right now.

What’s left of the GOP establishment is so deeply divided that it can’t even decide which of its two frontrunners needs to be stopped more urgently. That says nothing of the party’s inability to settle on one or even two candidates to represent its traditional power bases, despite a deep talent pool helped by opposition to President Obama. …

…The conservative National Review has taken the unprecedented step of publishing an entire issue aimed at blocking the party’s leading candidate. Generations of prominent conservative journalists, tea party activists, and former administration officials are uniting to say that Donald Trump should not even be considered a true conservative.

Meanwhile, in the halls of Congress, Republican lawmakers are coming together to argue that one of their own, Sen. Ted Cruz, is the candidate who must be blocked. Their argument is that Cruz would not just lose but damage the party brand for years to come.

I didn’t read any of the National Review issue — life is way too short for that — but Amanda Marcotte did read it.

The editors can’t quite seem to decide what their exact objections to Trump are. Is it that he’s driving the right too far in the direction of fascism or that he’s a secret liberal in disguise? Both! Whatever you need to hear! The strategy is argument through overwhelming. They’ll throw everything they’ve got, even contradictory stuff, at the reader and hope the sheer volume of words impresses them enough to vote for Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.

The everything-and-the-kitchen-sink strategy produces some hilarious contradictions. The main anti-Trump editorial, written by the editors, darkly warns that Trump isn’t the racist that his followers think he is. “Trump says he will put a big door in his beautiful wall, an implicit endorsement of the dismayingly conventional view that current levels of legal immigration are fine,” they write, even trying to get the reader to believe that Trump’s mass deportation plan is “poorly disguised amnesty”.

Of course they can’t come up with a coherent objection to Trump, because Trumpism is the inevitable extension of their own deranged politics.

Charles Pierce, on the National Review anti-Trump issue:

OK, I have decided that, for the next two hours, I am going to be a supporter of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. Why? Because the nation’s most conspicuously advertising-free longtime journal of white supremacy has gathered the finest minds in American conservatism to create the world’s biggest mudpie with their toes, that’s why.

I mean, look at this wingnut slide zone: Beck, Loesch, Podhoretz, Erickson, Bozell, a few of the now completely laughable reformicons, Butcher’s Bill Kristol. This is like the ’27 Yankees of bad ideas.

This crew is incapable of generating anything resembling a coherent ideology, but they are too self-oblivious to see it.

Andrew O’Hehir:

So when I read through National Review’s barrage of “Conservatives Against Trump” broadsides, a collection of mini-essays from miscellaneous haters with little else in common, I didn’t just notice the desperation, the flailing, the misplaced snobbery and self-righteousness, or the pervasive sense of abandonment and bewilderment. All of which were considerable: Trump was variously compared to Hitler, Mussolini and Barack Obama (I’m not sure who’s supposed to be worse); derided for his outer-borough accent and the vulgar design of his casinos; accused of being a phony conservative and a phony Christian (guilty as charged) and described both as a hateful racist and a stealth advocate of illegal immigration.

But when you get past the outrage, anger, betrayal and name-calling, you get to the unexpected but powerful nuggets of truth. To a significant degree, the National Review roster of right-wing philosopher-kings perceive that the jig is up, not just in terms of the 2016 nomination but in terms of the entire jury-rigged Frankenstein apparatus of the Republican Party.

The elites and insiders have lost control. Can they pull themselves together before the general election?

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An Epic Moment in Derp



Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) argued this week that restaurants should be able to “opt out” of health department regulations that require employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom.

It gets better.

“Don’t you believe that this regulation that requires this gentlemen to wash his hands before he serves your food is important?” Tillis was asked by the person at his table.

“I think it’s one I can illustrate the point,” Tillis told the women. “I said, I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as the post a sign that says ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restrooms.’ The market will take care of that.”

Um, Senator, do you think restaurant owners will post that sign voluntarily? Wouldn’t you need another regulation?

What can one say, but … derp.

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All Wet

Obama Administration

It says something about the state of journalism today that the clearest explanation of what happened to Flint’s water was on the Daily Show.

Anyhoo — Flint is a good example of what happens when someone tries to run government “like a business.” We’re told Flint switched its water supply to save money, but the real cause of this disaster goes a bit deeper. The best explanation is in Fortune (of all places):

Five years ago, Snyder signed legislation that expanded the reasons why the state could choose to appoint a municipal emergency manager, then granted those appointees almost complete power over their assigned municipalities. Under Public Act 4, as it was called, state-appointed emergency managers could break collective bargaining agreements, fire elected officials and determine their salaries, and privatize or sell public assets.”We can’t stand by and watch schools fail, water shut off, or police protection disappear,” the governor said in a statement defending the emergency management law. “Without the emergency manager law, there is precious little that can be done to prevent those kinds of nightmare scenarios. But with it, we can take positive action on behalf of the people to quickly avert a crisis.”

Let that part sink in for a minute.

Emergency management is a way to short-circuit democracy when a city faces financial insolvency, with the idea that a leader free from accountability to voters can make unpopular but necessary decisions. But Michigan voters rejected that law in a state-wide referendum, as many unions and civil rights groups raised alarm that this new breed of emergency managers could break union contracts and usurp local governance. A month later, the state legislature passed a replacement law that made minor adjustments and one major one: an appropriation banning a referendum on the new law. That was 2012.

By 2013, six Michigan cities—and almost half of the state’s African-American population—were under emergency management. In many of these cities, public services were pared down to the minimum.

This is a very right-wing approach to dealing with poverty. The cities in question were failing because the employer void left by the auto industry was not filled, leaving cities like Flint without enough tax base to run the city with. But instead of addressing that problem, the state assumed these cities were failing because the locals weren’t able to govern themselves. They needed someone to get tough with them and instill a little fiscal discipline. It’s a bit like the way 19th century Europeans treated the simple brown natives in their colonies.

The emergency managers didn’t answer to the people; they answered to Rick Snyder. And they tried to run Flint like a business, meaning all they cared about was short-term profitability.

Without the checks and balances present in a democratically-elected government, the emergency manager was able to make unilateral decisions. “Having one person as the decision maker, the idea is that you can get things done quickly and efficiently, but most of these emergency managers are people like city managers and financial experts,” says Eric Scorsone, the founding director of the Michigan State University Extension Center for State and Local Government Policy. “They don’t have the expertise they need. They aren’t civil engineers, and they aren’t health experts. You need to have other voices in the room.” Scoresone said that emergency managers need to work with other state agencies to bring holistic change to the cities under their care—not just cost cutting. …

… In Snyder’s speech Tuesday night, he spoke of one other problem in Michigan besides Flint: Detroit’s Public Schools, where teacher shortages, dilapidated buildings and enormous deficits have led to teacher protests. Both problems in Southeastern Michigan spiraled out of control under state-appointed emergency managers. The Detroit Public Schools’ current emergency manager? Darnell Earley, the man who once ran Flint.

On top of that, the “company” (i.e., Michigan) tried to brush off the problem with aggressive PR.  Emails revealed that the guys in the top-floor offices were determined that there was no problem that a little messaging couldn’t handle.

 The city’s mayor at the time, Dayne Walling, encouraged leaders to “toast” the switch with a taste of the “regular, good, pure drinking” water, the governor’s emails show. …

… Within months of the switch, a General Motors engine plant in Flint found that the city’s water had corroded parts, and stopped using it. A hospital saw that the water was damaging its instruments, and stepped up its own filtering and use of bottled water, as did a local university.

Still, officials seemed slow to respond. In one memo for the governor from February 2015, officials played down the problems and spoke of “initial hiccups.”

“It’s not ‘nothing,’ “ the memo said, adding that the water was not an imminent “threat to public health.” It also suggested that Flint residents were concerned with aesthetics.

Yes, a city full of lead-poisoned children is so unaesthetic. See also Charles Blow.

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The Pause Before the Votes

Obama Administration

The caucuses and primaries begin in a couple of weeks, so shit’s about to get real. I haven’t been able to watch the debates, but I do read the reviews, and here are my thoughts at the moment regarding Sanders and Clinton.

Bernie Sanders has the stronger, clearer vision of where the country, and the Democratic Party, need to go next. He also seems to have the stronger grasp of the underlying issue of big money corroding democracy. However, there’s a compelling argument that Hillary Clinton is better at the nuts-and-bolts stuff and would be a more pragmatic choice in the short term. I’m not going to argue which candidate is more electable, because they both have strengths and vulnerabilities. We’ll see how they do in the primaries.

My biggest fear of a Hillary Clinton term in office is that it will be more of kicking the progressive can down the road, in hopes of some bright, shiny future when the progressive vision can be actualized. This leads to people getting turned off and giving up on participatory democracy, especially younger people. Sanders, I think, understands that nothing will change unless it’s forced to change.

My biggest fear of a Bernie Sanders term in office is that once he gets into the give-and-take of actually governing, which means making some compromises, the progressive Left will turn on him as rabidly as they did on Obama. In a weird kind of way this is an advantage for Clinton, whom progressives expect to sell us out. When she makes compromises it won’t cost her as much support.

I also question how much of his vision Sanders can accomplish without a progressive majority in Congress. I suspect we’re stuck with tweaks no matter which Dem is in the White House, as long as the Wingnut Right is still calling the shots. However, a Republican in the White House is unthinkable. I have to believe that won’t happen.

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Poor Babies

Obama Administration

It’s been a great week for U.S. diplomacy, and naturally Republicans are outraged. And they’ve had a bad week for outrage. Last week when Iran took custody of U.S. sailors that were more than a mile within Iran’s territorial waters, the GOP presidential contenders barely had time to vent on Twitter about our weak and feckless President before the sailors were released. Unharmed. With all their stuff.

Of course, in Rightie World the sailors were not detained for being somewhere they weren’t supposed to be; they were kidnapped. Jazz Shaw wrote at Hot Air:

It’s a great time to be Iran, it seems. You can launch ballistic missile tests, kidnap and imprison western journalists or take American sailors hostage with guns held to their heads and the President of the United States will… allow you to import civilian aircraft and export locally produced goods. The dust hadn’t even settled from the Secretary of State thanking Iran for the release of ten American sailors when the White House announced that some of the first sanctions on Tehran were being lifted. …

Iran hasn’t taken any western journalists hostage this week; I think they’re referring to the Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was arrested on July 22, 2014, and also released this week.

… This bizarre and “nuanced” handling of sanctions – whether we’re talking about Iran, North Korea or anyone else – underscores the feckless nature of dancing with one’s enemies. So we have some sanctions which are specifically tied to their nuclear program, some associated with their ballistic missiles and others aimed at human rights abuses. (There apparently aren’t any for kidnapping American sailors.) As long as we’re dicing up the pie this way we can cancel some sanctions while leaving others in place?

I’ve been trying to grasp why that’s bad. And, of course, it’s not just “we.” This is a multinational deal.

FYI, earlier today, this happened:

The Obama administration announced Sunday that it was imposing new, more limited sanctions on some Iranian citizens and companies for violating United Nations resolutions against ballistic missile tests. The move came less than 24 hours after the White House lifted broader sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.

The announcement, which was prepared several weeks ago but delayed by the Treasury Department, was made shortly after a Swiss plane carrying Americans freed by the Iranian authorities departed Tehran. The release of the Americans came a day after Iran and the United States concluded delicate negotiations on a prisoner exchange tied indirectly to the completion of a nuclear agreement.

The entire Right seems unable to grasp that military vessels or aircraft are not supposed to enter the territories of other nations without permission. It’s kind of a big no-no. I get the impression from this news article — somewhat reading between the lines — that the U.S. sailors just plain screwed the pooch.

 Fred Kaplan lambasted the GOP for excessive derp.

You might think the prisoner release would put the Republicans in an awkward position. They’ve been pushing Obama to get the Americans freed for months, and now, here they are, back home with their families. Donald Trump tried to resolve the cognitive dissonance by claiming personal credit for the release. “I’ve been hitting them hard, and I think I might’ve had something to do with it,” Trump said in a campaign stop on Saturday. (A minute later, though, he denounced the release anyway, saying it should have happened three or four years ago. How, he didn’t reveal.) …

…Sen. Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed for RedState, denouncing the whole complex of Iranian-American deals as “appeasement.” This is the stuff of rhetorical hot air. What territory or interests did the United States cede in any of these deals? Rubio, Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, and others denounce the $150 billion that Obama is “giving” to Iran as part of the nuclear deal—not acknowledging, in some cases perhaps not knowing, that the money (more like $100 billion, minus $50 billion that will instantly go to pay off debts) is Iran’s own assets, which were frozen in response to Iran’s nuclear program. Now that the program is largely dismantled, as required the assets are unfrozen. That’s what the nuclear deal—negotiated by the United States, Iran, and five other powers (England, France, Russia, China, and Germany)—was all about.

For its part of the deal, Iran was required not merely to freeze its nuclear program but to substantially roll it back. Specifically, it had to dismantle two-thirds of its centrifuges and 98 percent of its enriched uranium, to fill its Arak plutonium reactor with concrete, and, for verification, to allow international inspectors unprecedented access to its facilities. The big news this weekend, in this regard, is that the International Atomic Energy Agency—which monitors compliance with the deal—announced that, at this stage of the deal, Iran has fulfilled its end of the bargain, ahead of schedule.

That’s what triggered the lifting of economic sanctions. (Rubio wrote that the release “rewards bad behavior,” but in fact it rewards good behavior.)

Back to Jazz Shaw:

But it hasn’t even been a week since they had guns to the heads of our sailors and took possession of two of our naval vessels. We’re seriously turning around and rewarding them with rich new economic activities and billions of dollars in relief? The broad lifting of these sanctions not only makes us look weak, but has a wide ranging effect on the rest of the world. One aspect of this phenomenon was already seen this week as oil prices tanked further on the prospect of additional Iranian crude flooding the market.

Oh noes! The price of oil will go down more! Big Oil might have to stop deep-oil drilling and fracking and whatnot. I feel so bad.

Yes, it’s a great day indeed… to be an Iranian. Should we really expect any of our allies to put their faith in us today?

Ask England, France, Russia, China, and Germany how much faith they would have in us if we had broken the deal.

Seriously, righties live on another planet.

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View from the Bleachers

Obama Administration

First, the Democratic nomination race: In the past month or so there has been a big shift in national polls toward Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton is still the front runner, but by a much narrower margin. A CBS News/New York Times poll that had the pair at 52 and 32 percent in early December has them at 48 and 41 percent in early January.  Philip Bump writes at The Fix that HRC’s lead is slipping faster now than at the same point in the race in 2008.

I think it’s still HRC’s race to lose, but she seems capable of losing it.

Perhaps the most astounding mistake Clinton has made, in recent days, is the way she’s gone about competing with Sanders on the issue of health care. Sanders favors a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system. Clinton would prefer to make incremental expansions to Obamacare.

But instead of convincing voters that she’d be the more politically effective candidate in this situation, Clinton’s gone all the way ’round the bend and has decided to ramp up unnecessary fearmongering, dispatching her daughter to New Hampshire to darkly warn that Sanders is gonna take everyone’s health care away:

“Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era — before we had the Affordable Care Act — that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

Hillary Clinton herself doubled down on her daughter’s comments on ABC News Thursday morning, and campaign aides have done the same. Of course, this is not true. Under a single-payer system, everybody gets health care. That’s the entire point, as Hillary Clinton well knows. Chelsea Clinton knows it too. As Alex Pareene points out: “Chelsea Clinton has a masters degree in public health from Columbia. She knows exactly how what she’s saying obfuscates the issue.”

This is well beyond the level of vitriol that is needed in the primary. More importantly, it’s stupid. The Democratic Party has been advocating for a single-payer health care system since the Truman era. …  Politicians don’t win races by trying to pull the wool over their potential supporters’ eyes about core policy beliefs they have held for decades.

Even more weirdly,  the article continues, HRC has been claiming that Sanders would be too soft on Big Banking. The Washington Post reports that the negative campaigning  has resulted in an avalanche of campaign donations — for Bernie Sanders.

It’s probably overstating the case a bit to say (as Van Jones did) that the Dem base is in “full-on rebellion” against Hillary Clinton. Both candidates have strongly partisan supporters who will stick to their candidate no matter what, and everybody else probably is waiting to see how the early primaries go before making up their minds.  But my sense of things is that Clinton’s biggest liability among Democrats is the fear that she’s likely to be too accommodating to the Right, and to Wall Street and Big Banks also. Attacking Sanders from the Right just reinforces that perception. It was stupid.

The Republican nomination race: The Republican establishment may have finally found the way to stop Donald Trump: support him.

Somebody at Red State claims the GOP establishment is going “all in” for Donald Trump. No less a spokesperson for American Reactionary Derp than Erick (son of, etc.) also said,

I said the other day that they’d rather go all in with Trump than nominate Ted Cruz. They hate him. They think that Trump is an opportunist they can cut a deal with while Cruz is the true blue conservative.

Got this? They think they can suck up to Trump, cut deals with him, and accommodate each other. They think if Cruz came in the status quo would get rocked and they could possibly find themselves shut out of power.

The Republican Establish is more afraid of losing power than they are saving the country and reducing government.

So there it is. If Trump becomes the establishment guy in the minds of wingnuts, will that be the end of him? I doubt it; my sense of things is that the right-wing voter base cares less about “true blue conservatism” than they do about all the fear and vehemence clanking around in their ids, and Trump plays that like a fiddle.

The establishment is reconciling itself to a Trump-Cruz race. All the polls show Trump first, Cruz second, with Trump considerably ahead. However, a recent NBC / Wall Street Journal poll of Republican primary voters asked for a preference if the only people running were Trump or Cruz, and in those polls Cruz surpassed Trump. In other words, people supporting Carson, Rubio or Christie, or the couple of guys still holding out for Toast!, are more likely to switch to Cruz when their guys drop out.

Be afraid.

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Alan Rickman, 1946-2016


I feel like canceling Christmas.

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Visions of SOTUs Dancing in Their Heads

Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

I didn’t get to watch the SOTU last night, so I’ve been catching up by reading reviews. I like something Nancy LeTourneau said at Washington Monthly. She is responding to this part of the President’s speech:

The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates…

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

On this, LeTourneau remarked,

That is quintessential Obama. If you don’t understand the basics of what he is saying here, almost nothing he does will make sense to you. In his quest to forge an identity out of the the divergent forces of his own personal background, Barack Obama crafted a world view that values those differences and the wisdom that comes from the democratic process of respectful – if sometimes heated – dialogue. Even more than any one particular policy position, President Obama elevates that process as the priority for the survival of our democracy.

The reason the Republicans have adopted a strategy of spreading fear, anger, cynicism and distrust is because that form of engaged democracy is the biggest threat to their interests.

“If you don’t understand the basics of what he is saying here, almost nothing he does will make sense to you.”   I could expand that to say, if you don’t understand the basics of what he is saying here, almost nothing proposed by genuine progressives will make sense to you.

Go back to the first sentence in the SOTU quote above – The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach. This is the liberal/progressive vision in a nutshell. This has been true since Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech. It was clearly expressed in another State of the Union speech, delivered by Franklin Roosevelt in 1941:

For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Truly, these ideals have never been fully realized. But working toward this is what the United States is about — to liberals.

I don’t think the Right wants that stuff. They may say they do, but their votes say otherwise.  All they seem to want is wealth and power for themselves, and if that’s at the expense of others (including fellow Americans), so be it.  And because they don’t understand what we lefties hope to achieve, nothing we do or say makes sense to them. All they understand is power and privilege.

Le Tourneau writes, “Even more than any one particular policy position, President Obama elevates that process as the priority for the survival of our democracy.” These days, this is is a liberal-progressive way of seeing things. I know I’ve written in the past that righties have no respect for the importance of process, although I can’t find that post now.  And this is turning the norms of political science on its head. It used to be the “conservative” impulse to protect and preserve process, the traditional wheels and levers that make things work, and “progressives” who wanted to smash the old way of doing things to try something new. Today’s Right cares about nothing but outcome. If they have to smash through tradition and established procedure to get where they want, no problem.

I noticed that some right-wing commenters though last night’s SOTU was “boring.” Righties tend to claim boredom when confronted with an argument they can’t easily refute. Opportunity, fairness, equality, sustainability, peace — yeah, boring stuff. Never mind that these things would benefit them as well; somehow, such things feel like a diminishment to them. Let’s hate! Let’s drop bombs! Let’s tweak the economy so that we can all we rich! Let’s drill for oil until the sun don’t shine! That’s the ticket!

Elsewhere — responding to a Peter Baker column, Steve M writes that President Obama’s optimism is not really anything like Ronald Reagan’s “sunny disposition” back in 1980. Reagan projected cheerfulness, but his words warned of doom and promoted divisiveness. And it’s that stuff that got him elected.

Right now, half the country looks out its windows and sees a Mad Max movie, Steve M says. Well, maybe we all see a Mad Max movie. The difference is that liberals/progressives think we have everything we need to make it better, to make it more like the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life. We just need the will to do it. The Right thinks itself helpless without big guns to shoot the bad guys (everybody who isn’t Them) and big bombs to wipe out the scary foreign people. And the things progressives propose that would make things better make absolutely no sense to them.

And so we are at an impasse.

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